It is time for the residents of Vancouver Island to re-invent ourselves. We need to further embrace ‘green’ sources of economic growth such as tourism, as well as ensure long-term essentials such as a reliable source of fresh water. The future of our renewed economic prosperity is the old E&N rail line.
The Island Corridor Committee needs to be commended for endeavouring to secure ownership of the present rail lines that run from Victoria to Courtenay (and Port Alberni). However, the potential cost to rebuild and maintain these lines for strictly rail use will be far greater than any potential economic benefit.
Turning these rail lines into multi-use ‘rail trails’ would attract visitors from near and far and with it, the economic potential that accompanies this desirable destination. The economic benefits of rail trails is proven around the world providing job growth in trail related businesses: tourism, wineries, fishing, lodging, restaurants, coffee shops, wine bars, construction, maintenance and the expansion of existing businesses, equipment, clothes, food, souvenirs, side trips and guided tours.
This dedicated trail also preserves the key right of way for our infrastructure needs. Vancouver Island’s second major challenge (and this challenge is only going to become more acute as our local glaciers and snow packs dwindle) is a secure water source. Central Vancouver Island is blessed with two very large fresh water reservoirs (and both are fed from the rivers which originate in Strathcona Park): Great Central and the Buttle Lake systems.
Tap into these two sources of water and run a pipeline (under the new bike trails) from Port Alberni and Campbell River down the East Coast of this Island. This would ensure a constant water supply for all communities on the East Coast not to mention the major employment opportunity that would result from the construction of this pipeline.
The reason the E&N rail line continues to fail is because it is simply uneconomic, so let’s not continue to throw good money after bad. We have the opportunity to move to a mindset that promotes entrepreneurial businesses providing long term employment in a healthy environment and a resulting vibrant economy. A secure supply of fresh clean drinking water ensures Vancouver Island remains a paradise for all of us. Some serious long term planning is needed by all levels of government — let’s get started.
Robert LundineComox Valley